Fancy Pants Quinoa Polenta

Most days I don’t leave enough time to plan or cook dinner, so I do an awful lot of winging it. My well-stocked pantry saves my disorganized patootie on a regular basis. The truth is, however, that a well-stocked pantry can also help you find your way to a new and fabulous meal. Sometimes you wanna get a little fancy pants, and empty shelves make that sort of idea dissipate pretty quickly. A well stocked larder gives you lots of room to play, and if you have time, that’s a great deal of fun. I was desperate for something new, and so turned to a different cookbook friend to see if inspiration would strike. It did, and with a few minor adjustments (yeah, I’m still me) I served up an unusually elegant and tasty meal. Mr. Little Sis and I enjoyed it immensely; honestly, it felt a little like date food, and any dinner that seems like date food while you’re eating at your kitchen table with twin five year olds, deserves to be shared.

Quinoa Polenta with Tempeh Sausage and Mushrooms – adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Millet Polenta and Tempeh Sausage recipes found in Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock

For the Polenta:

  • 1 c quinoa
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water (I used 1 stock, 2 water)
  • 1 T olive oil plus more for pan
  • 2 c fresh shredded greens (I used chard from my garden)
  • 1 T fresh oregano (I grow it, but you could use 1/2 t dried)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • dash of black pepper

For the Tempeh Sausage:

  • 8 oz package tempeh
  • 1/2 T fennel seed (yes, you need this if you want it to taste like sausage)
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1 t dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes (opt – I left out for Ms. Picky Pants)
  • 1/2 t dried sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • 1 T olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Sauteed Mushrooms:

  • mushrooms (I used about 1/2 lb)
  • olive oil for pan
  • dash salt


Start with the polenta as it needs some time to “set.”  Because of this requirement, this is also a great dish to make ahead of time.  Make the polenta one evening after dinner, then simply prepare the tempeh and mushrooms when you’re ready to serve the meal – at least that’s what I’ll do next time. 😉  Let’s get started, shall we? Toast the quinoa in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes until it browns a bit and becomes aromatic.  Rinse several times in a sieve.  Bring water/broth, quinoa and olive oil to a boil in a pot.  Lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes (check on this to be sure it doesn’t burn).  Mix in greens, spices and continue to simmer on LOW for a few more minutes until liquid is absorbed.  Scoop into an oiled dish – you can get fancy with this and make shapes, or you can do what I did and put it into a glass baking dish and it into shapes once firm.  Allow to cool on counter.  Once the polenta is firm and cut, you will be browning your polenta shapes in a frying pan.

Give the polenta at LEAST an hour to cool if you are using a flat container, if you want to get real fancy shmancy and make a roll of polenta in cans, you’ll need to let it cool for longer.  When it is cool, cut it into whatever shapes you prefer.  The rest of the elements of this dish will take about a half an hour.

Slice your mushrooms, warm olive oil in the pan, spread mushroom slices (or chunks if you prefer) in the pan.  Sprinkle with salt.  Leave them along until the mushrooms are wet on top and starting to curl under, then flip them.  While the mushrooms are sautéing, crumble the tempeh into a pan and add enough water to near cover it.  Simmer the tempeh over med-high until most water is absorbed or for about 12-15 minutes.  Assemble the herbs and seasoning for the sausage in a bowl.  Drain remaining water from tempeh, return tempeh and seasonings to pan until a little brown (about 10 minutes). Don’t forget about your mushrooms.  When they are browned to your liking, remove them from the pan and set aside.  Add a little olive oil, and put polenta into the frying pan.  Brown for a few minutes on each side.

Serve by placing polenta on plate, sprinkling sausage on top of it, decorating with sautéed mushrooms, and sprinkling with any leftover bits of greens that didn’t make it into the polenta.  Add some toasted nuts if you’re feeling a little EXTRA fancy.  Delish.